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What to Expect in the Postanesthesia Care Unit (PACU)

What to Expect in the Postanesthesia Care UnitWhere do I go after surgery?
Right after surgery, you will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) or directly to the Intensive Care Unit where nurses will take care of you and watch you carefully. A nurse will check your vital signs often, look at your dressings (bandages), regulate your intravenous fluids and give you pain medication as you need it.

What do I need to tell the PACU Nurse?
Please tell the nurse if you are having pain. The nurse will ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning no pain, and 10 the worst pain. The nurse will reassess your pain and continue to help you manage it until you are as comfortable as possible.

What do I need to do with my nausea?
Some patients develop nausea. It is important to tell your nurse about it right away, so it can be treated with medication. If you have had problems with nausea in the past, let the anesthesia care provider know before your surgery.

What other feelings may I experience after surgery?
You may feel sleepy, dizzy and/or forgetful from the medication given to you during your surgery.

When will I see my family after surgery?
Visitation in the PACU will be specific to each facility. Check with the nursing staff to find out if your family will be allowed to visit you.

What type of information do I need to know before going home?
If you are going home that same day, you will be given printed discharge instructions for your care at home. The nursing staff will review the instructions with you and a family member or friend. Your instructions will include activity restrictions (if any), diet, pain medication, a follow-up with your surgeon if needed, and any signs to watch for and to report to your surgeon if needed.

A prescription mayor may not be given to you depending on your surgeon’s orders and what you had done.

What will happen to my home device or internal device before going home?
If you came to the hospital with your C-Pap or Bi-Pap machine, pain or insulin home pump, they will be returned to you. If your pain or insulin pump was disconnected during surgery, it will be re-connected before going home. If you have an Automatic Internal Compression Device (AICD) and it was turned off before surgery, it will be turned back on before going home.

Will I be able to go home by myself after surgery?
You must have a family member/relative or friend, drive you home. Patients should not drive for 24 hours as they may feel a little drowsy, and perhaps dizzy, for several hours after surgery. It is also important for someone, to stay with you the first 24 hours after surgery. It is important to have someone around to help you in case of an emergency.

If I have to spend the night in the hospital, will I have my room ready after surgery?
If you will be staying in the hospital for a few days, you will be assigned a room. There are occasions when the hospital census is high and patients may have to wait for a bed but even while you wait there will be nurses to take care of you.

How long will I stay in the PACU?
The type of anesthesia you have received will determine your length of stay and your overall postoperative course. The PACU nurse will observe you until you return close to your status before surgery. Sometimes patient’s stay longer than expected in the PACU, do not be alarmed: a longer stay may be necessary to make sure that the patient receives the very best care and is comfortable before being discharged.

Reprinted with permission by the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN). Copyright © 2010.
All rights reserved. ASPAN Patient Information. Available at: www.aspan.org.